In honor of Bill Simmons's annual Trade Value column, let's take a look at which players on the Bobcats we should be least willing to trade. Note that Larry Brown and management generally have different ideas about roster construction than I do, so this isn't any kind of speculation about how they value players; it's how I would rank them.
All contract info is from Storyteller's Contracts.
14 -- DeSagana Diop -- He's going to be making MLE money, that some starting-quality centers wish they could make, through the 2012-13 season. That's mind-boggling for a guy who can't play offense to save his life, eight seasons into his career. We had to trade a contract nearly as bad, Matt Carroll's, to acquire this monstrosity. If you're finishing middle school this spring, you'll have finished high school before Diop's deal is completed.
13 -- Nazr Mohammed -- He never was a great defender, and now his offense is in sharp decline. He's getting paid roughly what Diop is, but his deal expires after the 2010-11 season.
12 -- Juwan Howard -- He has no future on this club, as a player.
11 -- Sean May -- He's still got a vague smell of potential about him, but it's hard to decipher amid the crap smell.
10 -- Cartier Martin -- Swingman D-League filler. If he plays more than an end-of-the-bench role for more than two seasons, I'd be surprised.
9 -- Sean Singletary -- Sub-six-foot men tend not to do well in the NBA. Maybe he invents himself as a Darrell Armstrong type, but the roster spot likely isn't worth spending to find out for most NBA teams.
8 -- Alexis Ajinca -- He's super tall for a three-four combo guy, but the dude can't rebound, and he has zero basketball sense, relative to the NBA. He's clearly the worst pick of this year's first round, especially given the spot where he was drafted. At this point, his absolute, shock me if you can, ceiling has to be a less aggressive, weaker defensively, Yi Jianlian, right?
7 -- Vladimir Radmanovic -- He has the exact same contract as Mohammed, but he's legitimately useful as a bench player who might be able to hold down the fort as a temporary starter.
6 -- Boris Diaw -- As solid a player as he's been, Boris's contract sucks for the team. They might not have been as good with Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley instead of Diaw and Raja Bell, but if we'd simply held on to those two, we'd have a solid, super cheap, bench player in Dudley, and Richardson's contract would expire after the 2010-11 season. Instead, we traded for Diaw, another player who is probably paid more than he's worth, let alone that he's not the kind of guy who can carry a team to a title, and he's signed for even longer, through the 2011-12 season. We'd be well served to dump his contract if offered.
5 -- Raymond Felton -- We keep him over Diaw because we can simply let him go after this season if we think DJ Augustin can take over the point. However, he can easily be had for bench help and a pick.
4 -- Raja Bell -- He's cheap. He expires after next season. And even if his defense is on the decline, he hits enough threes to keep the defense honest and make them defend the perimeter. Again, just holding him and riding out his contract makes a ton of sense, because we're not likely to get anyone of equal value for the same price.
3 -- DJ Augustin -- Dude still has trouble with defenses targeting him. He's more of a scorer than a facilitator, an ideal candidate to run point for the triangle offense. But he's a good enough offensive player in sum that we have to wait and see if he improves his defense during his rookie contract.
2 -- Gerald Wallace -- He's a little older than Josh Smith, and just a tick below him, talentwise. Their contracts reflects that. Unfortunately, while everyone simply acknowledges that Josh Smith is awesome, Gerald's dismissed. If Gerald's the second best player on your team, you're in great shape. It's not likely that $9.5 million will get you a player as good as Wallace in the free agent class.
1 -- Emeka Okafor -- He's undersized, but he's a center, and a dominant defender, to boot. My only real beef with Simmons: Kevin Martin, as awesome as he is, doesn't deserve to be on the list at all. It's kind of apples to oranges, but Emeka Okafor deserves to be on the list if Martin does. Consider that Emeka is four months older, plays a more premium position and has rarer skills, while still holding his own offensively. Emeka also hasn't missed any extended time due to injury in at least a year and a half. I don't mind if other teams fail to recognize Okafor's prowess, since he'll simply take over the paint against a suddenly helpless and bewildered opponent. But with continued elite defense and a much-improved offensive game marked by a new aggressiveness around the basket and a real threat of scoring out to twelve feet, Okafor is in position to battle with Brook Lopez to be the Eastern Conference's backup All Star center for years after Ilgauskas retires.